The Playground Project

From:  The Playground Project

While traveling to the Philippines in 2001, filmmaker Libby Spears gained first hand knowledge of the horrific practice of trafficking human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. She examined a little deeper, and discovered that most of these victims were young children.

Facing death threats to be “knocked off” for only $10, Libby went undercover to infiltrate brothels in South Korea and Thailand. She held first-hand interviews with victims, their pimps, and their abusers. She mapped the trafficking routes of the sex tourism industry, and charted the commerce fueled by the purchase and sale of minors—she was disheartened to find that virtually the entire globe was involved and affected by this growing industry.

What she was astonished to find, however, was the involvement of the United States and the degree to which they were influencing the global demand and growth of the sex trafficking industry.

Previously, she had mistakenly believed that sex trafficking was primarily an “international” occurrence in countries like Philippines and Cambodia. But a meeting with Ernie Allen, President of the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, confirmed to Libby what her research was beginning to uncover: that the trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation is every bit as real in North America.

This is where Playground begins.

“Men fly into Atlanta, Georgia from all over the US to have sex with children they have purchased online. In a small, affluent, local golf community, the elementary school superintendent and local bookstore clerk are arrested on the same day in a sting operation by law enforcement officials seeking sex predators of children via the Internet.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Appalled by modern day sex slavery, filmmaker Libby Spears began a covert investigation to document the worldwide child sex trafficking problem, and to see how and if it led back to the United States. What she was astonished to find, however, was the involvement of the United States and the degree to which they were influencing the global demand and growth of the sex trafficking industry.

At the heart of the story is Michelle, whose first encounter with sexual abuse began at five. Having run away from a foster care system that left Michelle vulnerable and at risk, the film opens with the filmmaker’s search for her. Over a five year period, Spears unravels the gut-wrenching atrocities suffered by Michelle and other children like her, who are victims of the American sex trafficking industry.

By gracefully weaving in interviews with vice officers and social workers — and sometimes even the pimps or johns themselves — Spears constructs an insightful, resonant, and nuanced narrative that details just how complex and massive this problem is.

Playground examines our legal and social systems, and their inability to deal with this crisis. Neither dogmatic nor sensationalist, Playground offers no clear-cut answers, but instead, compels us to begin asking questions… the right questions:

Why do we treat children as victims in cases of sexual abuse, but as soon as money is exchanged, we deem these sexually abused children as “criminals?” Why does our legal system view foreign children who are trafficked from other countries as “victims,” but treats American children who are trafficked domestically as criminals? Why is there such an overwhelming demand for sex with a child? Are we adequately teaching our children sexual respect? What message do we send as a society when we normalize Justin Timberlake’s ripping off a woman’s shirt in public, but demonize Janet Jackson for her exposed breast?

The problem is monumental: The U.S. Department of Justice claims that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is the world’s fastest growing form of organized crime. Within the next decade, the prostitution of children worldwide will net more profit than the sale of illegal drugs. In the United States alone, child sex trafficking is a multi-million dollar industry with an estimated 300,000 children annually at risk. Wherever you can buy drugs in this country, you can buy children – American children – for sex. Playground makes compellingly clear that if we’re not seeing the problem, it’s only because we’re not looking.

To offer emotional relief of the heavy subject matter, animated characters appear throughout the film as quiet punctuations. Playground employs a hand-crafted animation style that hearkens back to the early days of animation as an art form. With original illustrations created by Yoshitomo Nara, the animation allows Spears to suggest, rather than literally depict, some of the horrors of sex trafficking, and does an effective job at conveying the psychological and emotional climate suffered by the victims.

From filmmaker Libby Spears and Producers George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Steven Soderbergh, comes a beautifully-wrought, astonishing portrait of our country’s most alarming and insidious secret — the child sex trafficking in America.

Music by: Bjork, Radiohead, Chris Martin, Blonde Redhead, Cat Power, Sigur Rós, CocoRosie, Basement Jaxx, DJ Shadow, Kazu Makino.

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For more information on the film, see:  Tribeca Film -09 Film Guide.

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What I read; what I see

I read: 

The problem is monumental: The U.S. Department of Justice claims that the commercial sexual exploitation of children is the world’s fastest growing form of organized crime. Within the next decade, the prostitution of children worldwide will net more profit than the sale of illegal drugs. In the United States alone, child sex trafficking is a multi-million dollar industry with an estimated 300,000 children annually at risk. Wherever you can buy drugs in this country, you can buy children – American children – for sex. Playground makes compellingly clear that if we’re not seeing the problem, it’s only because we’re not looking.

And all I could see in my mind was how Masha Allen was "discovered" on the internet.

The part about children

The part about children being purchased on-line is very disturbing when you realize just how many private companies working with child placement services use photos of children to attract potential care-takers. When a child is a victim of crime, most media keeps that identity secret, for the sake of the child. When a website features children needing a home, there is a photo and a brief description about their personality. Such a shame, really. We are now a society that must see the world through the lens of a child molester, otherwise no child will be safe from harm.

I'd also like to point out, there are far too many children running away from bad homes. These children would rather live on the streets, trade sex for a place to sleep, for food, or for money, than go where authority figures are sending them. What is that saying about the level of care Americans are giving their own children?

The Poor and The Homeless

there are far too many children running away from bad homes. These children would rather live on the streets, trade sex for a place to sleep, for food, or for money, than go where authority figures are sending them. What is that saying about the level of care Americans are giving their own children?

A recent study (March, 2009) indicated 1 in 50 U.S. kids are homeless.

A national study released Monday finds that one in 50 children in America is homeless. They're sharing housing because of economic hardship, living in motels, cars, abandoned buildings, parks, camping grounds or shelters, or waiting for foster care placement.  [From:  "Number of homeless children on the rise", March 10, 2009, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/63622.html ]

According to Time magazine,

The numbers are likely to get worse as the economy continues to decline. "We know the numbers are going to skyrocket," says Ellen Bassuk, president of the Newton, Mass.-based Center and an associate professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School.

Indeed, a quick survey of the country provides lots of evidence to support those fears. Chicago public school officials report the number of its 405,000 students deemed homeless soared to 11,143 last month from 9,182 in February 2006. School officials in Hillsborough County, Fla., which includes Tampa, have so far counted some 1,700 homeless students — and expect the figure to eclipse last year's 2,020. Meanwhile, the surge in homeless families has overwhelmed Massachusetts' shelters, forcing state officials to book motel rooms for the displaced. In January, some 4,600 homeless children were reported in the state's shelters and motels, up from 3,411 from roughly one year earlier.

Later in the same article it states:

The nation’s states and cities are awaiting an infusion of $1.5 billion from President Obama’s stimulus package devoted to homelessness prevention programs. Those programs will provide short-term rental and mortgage assistance, as well as security deposits and utility bills. A decade ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent barely $1 billion on all of its homeless programs each year.  

Where do people in poor countries send their children to live when "times are exceptionally hard and tough"?

Orphanages.

1 click shopping-

The nation’s states and cities are awaiting an infusion of $1.5 billion from President Obama’s stimulus package devoted to homelessness prevention programs. Those programs will provide short-term rental and mortgage assistance, as well as security deposits and utility bills. A decade ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent barely $1 billion on all of its homeless programs each year

I cannot understand what a stimulus package is going to prevent in the short term use of it. IMO it seems it will likely be spent most on some overpaid do-gooders salaries, and  the cost of them to shuffle plenty of paperwork, leaving in the end very limited resources to actually assist and desist the monumental issues surrounding the whole calamity of homelessness and protecting the most vulnerable of victims.

1 click shopping has now overtaken the ability to protect any childs welfare.  I feel all children and women are at risk even some men too.What ever the desires of the depraved, there will be a way to 1 click shop for the appetite, with this new frontier of the internet. 

'Lord grant me the strength to accept the FUCKTARDS I cannot change!'

closed court

I see the closed court system as another danger field in the protection of children from sexual exploitation. Judges and social workers can not be trusted to work in the best interest of children per se. Some ARE corrupt, some DO participate in child trafficking. If court decisions are sealed and names are being changed, how can we ever track the children being placed. Where is the guarantee the court system doesn't hand over children to organized crime?

Foster Care

Until the Caseworkers for DHS have training and will recognize the problem nothing will change. When a young girl is prostituting she is pegged as a bad child and placed in foster homes that are not qualified to help her. There is no system in Oregon that i know of that will provide treatment to undo the brainwashing that the pimp does. Counseling is now 2 hours a month and that's it. No treatment programs. The girls all know their pimps phone numbers by heart and are allowed to have cell phones by the caseworkers. So the girls keep in touch with the pimps while in foster care. The girls will also recruit other girls in the foster home to do the same activity. I am a quality home that has committed my life to helping over 250 troubled teen girls in the last 20 years in addition I am professional and love what i do. But with the lack of support from the state and community programs I know I cannot help these girls. What we need it 300 acres in an isolated area and send the girls there to be deprogrammed and learn a trade so they can support themselves without selling their bodies. Until these girls are retrained and learn about love and can value their bodies they cannot change. I just wish i have the money to help. I can tell you names and faces of many girls that are currently involved in forced prostitution today. This is a very sad situation....Someone please Help.

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